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Free Study Guide for The Great Santini by Pat Conroy

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Chapter 33 Summary

By the end of April, Lillian told her kids that their father would be in Ravenel for at least another year. They all groaned at the fact, but realized that they all have to accept it. Ben asked Mary Anne for the prom to save him from humiliation. Lillian and Bull were teased and were asked if they could teach Ben and Mary Anne how to dance. Bull took the lead and waltzed his wife around their veranda. Bull decided that heíll buy a dress for the prom for Mary Anne.

On the night of prom, Ben and Lillianís conversation were about Benís curiosity if he was really Southern or not. Itís because he doesnít do hunting or fishing as a hobby like other Southern boys. Mary Anne got downstairs and it was time for them to go to their reservation for the Officers' Club. The siblings got talking inside the car about the attributed that they got from either side of the family. They think their mother is a saint, while their father is a creep. Upon arriving at the Officersí Club, the headwaiter brought a dozen roses to their table. Mary Anne was surprised to see that it was from their father.

Notes: Even if Mary Anne is hostile towards her brother, she loved him deeply. Bullís tenderness as father showed during the prom by bypassing Lillian and buying Mary Anneís needs for the night.

Chapter 34 Summary

Ben woke up at the earliest hours of the day, fetching a thick blanket for him and his sister for they had slept on hammocks in the veranda for the night. On the other hand, their father was flying a plane high over Georgia, reminiscing about how much he loves the simplicity of the language of pilots. As he was descending towards Ravenel, his warning light flashed red, meaning that thereís a fire somewhere on or in his plane. There were no signs of the said fir, save for the warning light flashing. Bull started to get worried when his engine began to vibrate violently. He got worried because he was approaching a populated areaó places where families lived. He reached for his radio in panic when he heard his engine explode. Within two minutes, a rescue helicopter was sent to where Bull disappeared from the radar.

At quarter to seven, Colonel Joe Varney dropped by the Meecham household. As a son of a fighter pilot, Ben knew all too well that this was a sign of tragedy. Ben ran towards his motherís rom and told her that officers are at their door. Lillian screamed as she saw Colonel Varney, who assured her that there might be a chance that Bull will emerge again. Lillian ordered Ben to wake the others up so she can break the news to them.

Lillian knew that Marine wives would be on their way to their house to sympathize with her agony. The children stayed back, but wanted to talk to Paige Hedgepath alone so they can be reassured about their father. At nine in the morning, Mr. Dacus pulled over at their house and invited Ben to look for his father. As they took Mr. Dacusí boat to the middle of the river, Mr. Mills broke the news that theyíve found Bullís dead body.

Bullís corpse was badly burned, so his funeral had to happen immediately. Lillian had to make phone calls to both sides of the family to inform them of the tragedy. Lillian kept her composure and attributed what happened as Godís will. She instructed her children to keep themselves together and not cry in public. They can only grief in private. Lillian kept solitary vigil besides her husbandís coffin, praying the rosary. Ben still couldnít believe that his father was already gone. He joined his mother beside the coffin and asked her questions about his dad. Ben admitted that for the most of his life, he loathed his father. He always prayed for Bullís death, but now that it has happened, he didnít know how to feel.

He planned to go to college and enter the Marine Corps in secret, calling his father only when it was time for his second lieutenantís bars to be pinned. Heíd enter flight school to become a fighter pilot and beat his father in a raceó then heíd quit the Marines the moment he did that.

The Meecham children were strong; they didnít cry and walked up the aisle of the church without showing emotion on their faces. During the burial, Ben felt nostalgic and sad about his fatherís passing. All the symbolism that were done for his father made him remember about the days when he was still close to his dad. At the three in the morning, the family loaded the station wagon with all their belongings to move back to Atlanta. Ben was in charge of driving them back. On the road to Atlanta, Ben felt himself filling up with the love of his father.

Notes: Bullís death was something that his kids asked for because of his treatment of them. Once he passed, the children felt the obvious void that the Santini has left in their lives. Ben realized that heís the man of the family now and must remain strong and look to his father for inspiration.

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